What Does A Software Engineer Do?

There has never been a better time to get into a software engineering or development career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, software engineering and development job openings are expected to grow by 25% in the next ten years, much faster than the average (4% growth) of all other professions.

If you are looking into a career in software engineering or any profession that uses coding, you might need clarification on several titles frequently used interchangeably. These job titles include software engineer, software developer and web developer. If you look at the job descriptions for each of these titles, you'll find overlapping responsibilities, education requirements and skill sets needed. They all use programming code to design software, computer and network systems, websites and apps. 

Hopefully, this short article will answer any questions about the differences between these programming jobs and help you decide what direction to take in your career.

What is Software Engineering?

Let's start with software engineering, so we have something to compare the other titles to. 

In the most basic terms, software engineers use programming languages to design, develop and build software and computer programs. In addition, software engineers are experts in applying engineering principles to software creation. They know the ins and outs of designing efficient software products, how to solve coding issues and the best practices for planning software architecture.

Software engineering tends to take a "big picture" approach to software development. Software engineers are often in management or collaborative roles and are responsible for developing the overall architecture of a program.

Software engineering is commonly an umbrella term for various specialties, including software development and web development (which will be discussed in this article), machine learning engineering, DevOps engineering, etc.

What is the Difference Between Software Engineers and Software Developers?

It is common to see the job titles of software engineers and software developers used interchangeably, despite being two different professions. They aren't lumped together because lay people don't understand the difference. Professionals in both fields require similar technical and soft skills, and they usually work together on software development teams on the same projects. 

In the workplace, the deciding factor of these terms being used interchangeably is whether the company makes a difference. So, for example, some companies distinguish between their developers and engineers, and some do not.

When a distinction is made, the job duties of software developers are much more detail-oriented than that of engineers. They are responsible for writing the programming code for a software program or computer system. The code they write must be maintainable, efficient and scalable. When the job calls for it, they ensure the code runs on different operating systems, such as iOS, Windows and Linux.

In summary: engineers create the overall plan for the program; developers write the code. Engineers create software tools; developers use those tools to develop applications. Engineers collaborate with each other and other disciplines to make the final product; developers work more independently to complete their projects.

How are Web Developers Different?

A web developer is a type of software engineer. As the name suggests, web developers work on websites and apps. They also work with application programming interfaces (APIs), which is a program that allows two different applications to talk to each other. 

Based on that alone, you might wonder how web developers and software engineers could be interchangeable job titles since they seem different. Web development is very similar to a specialized type of software engineer called a front-end engineer. Web developers and front-end engineers use the same coding languages: HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Both work with UX/UI designers on website and app layouts and anything visible to users.

The main difference between front-end engineers and web developers is that web developers create the whole website, including the "back-end," instead of front-end engineers, who only work on aspects that users can see and interact with. However, they are responsible for the website's overall functionality, such as page loading speed and system health.

How Do You Know What Coding Program to Take?

You don't need to decide between a career as a web developer, software engineer or software developer before enrolling in a class to learn to code. All three fields have very similar education and skill requirements, so you only need to decide on your career path once you have some education. 

The course curriculum is the main thing you should pay attention to before enrolling. You will want a well-rounded curriculum with courses that cover topics such as:

  • Web fundamentals.

  • DOM manipulation.

  • Version control.

  • Front-end coding languages, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

  • Code testing.

  • Advanced array methods.

  • Object-oriented programming.

  • How to use web development libraries.

  • Back-end coding languages, such as Python, Java and Ruby.

  • SQL fundamentals.

  • Full-stack fundamentals.

In addition to these topics, you will be best served by a program emphasizing projects so you can get hands-on experience and have projects to add to your portfolio.

While most software engineers have a bachelor's degree in computer science, IT or a related field, coding bootcamps are an excellent alternative for people who don't have the option of going to school full-time. 

Stony Brook University's Software Engineering Bootcamp is a 9-month program. It is entirely online, perfect for students who need flexible schedules. Still, with all of the support and structured learning you would find with an in-person university setting.

Click here to learn more about the Stony Brook University Software Engineering Bootcamp and become a qualified software engineer in 9 months.